After a week of watching and waiting on Hurricane Dorian, this week brings storm fatigue. We certainly were blessed locally not to be severely impacted by the storm that caused so much death and destruction in the Bahamas. So today is a time to look at a particular aspect of preparedness for the day when we won’t be so lucky.
Hurricane damage is measured in the loss of lives and property. As in other disasters, from fire to flooding, too often forgotten is the loss of vital personal documents, from birth certificates and Social Security cards to tax records.
In hurricane season and any season, taking stock of those records and protecting them should be a priority.
The South Carolina Department of Revenue has advice on keeping your records safe in the event of an emergency:
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• Use paperless recordkeeping. Scan paper documents to save electronic copies, and back up your computer often. Keep electronic copies of tax records, bank statements, W2s, home-closing statements and insurance records. Consider keeping backup copies on an external storage device, like a flash drive or hard drive. Store these duplicates in a safe place, like a waterproof container at a trusted relative's home or in a safe deposit box. Don't choose your safe storage spot only out of convenience. If a disaster strikes your home or business, it will likely affect the surrounding area.
• File online. Filing tax returns online is faster and more accurate – and it ensures returns are protected from a natural disaster. Store passwords and information needed to access returns in a safe place, like a secure password manager.
• Keep a visual record of your property. Photos or videos of your home or business' contents before a disaster can help support any claim of loss on a tax return or with insurance. Store the photos or videos in a safe place, like a secure cloud storage service.
• If you're an employer, ask about fiduciary bonds. The IRS recommends that businesses who use payroll service providers should ask if the provider has a fiduciary bond in place. This bond can protect the business if the provider defaults.
• Keep your emergency plans updated. Your plans should include where to seek shelter from all types of emergencies and how you'll communicate with employees, customers and family. Always have an emergency supply kit ready during hurricane season and make sure you know your evacuation routes.
Most importantly, make sure you do these things to prepare before hazardous conditions approach.
Learn more about emergency preparedness at dor.sc.gov/emergencies.